A Seasonal Escape to Park Avenue Summer, NYC

What do you do when you are having a honeymoon hangover and feeling a little like you aren’t getting the appropriate Vitamin D and excitement levels in your life? You whisk yourself and your husband off to a local getaway to ease the pain. At least that’s what we did. Just three weeks after our return from the honeymoon we were wander-lusting so hard that we booked a last minute weekend in New York City. I’ll get to our experience at Park Avenue Summer soon but first, a little travel anecdote.

After arriving at our Paris-inspired hotel, The NoMad, which had us flashing back to our European stays, we embarked on a tourist filled couple of days in our own backyard. We never take the time to explore New York City from a tourist perspective because we often take for granted that it’s “our city”. But, we realized we knew so little of the history of it that it was a perfect opportunity to pretend like newbies!

This post is really about a dinner experience we had on our visit but one last tidbit before I get there. We took a tour from the Lower East Side History Project and it was truly a fantastic experience. The tour was the perfect length to keep our attention (an hour and a half) and on our selected tour we discussed a topic that many of New Jersey and New York residents think we know about but really know so little. The Mafia and Italian culture in New York was explored at depth around Little Italy. It’s well worth the $20 and your afternoon.

Ok, back to the food! I received a tip from a friend who had recently visited New York that there was a restaurant that not only changed their menu seasonally but they changed the entire design and composition of the restaurant with each passing season. I was intrigued! It also happened to be only a few blocks from our hotel so it was an easy dinner choice! Park Avenue Summer (as it is called right now) is part of a rebirth of the original Park Avenue restaurant which was downtown. Now, it’s in a new location and provides a local ingredients approach that is ever-changing.

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The décor and ambiance are upscale and trendy. The dining room is lined with trees and the ceilings are adorned with large dangling powderpuff  lights that emphasize sunny and flowery feelings to it’s guests. The Modern-American menu is short. They offer a $79 option that includes any one appetizer and dessert to share and your choice of individual entrees. We were too hungry for this option, especially knowing that the portions were likely to be smaller.  But, this is a great affordable way to taste the menu!

Before I start my flavor review of our selected courses I am going to go on tangent #2 in this post. It will just be a small rant about Modern American food. Whenever I hear about a new restaurant that I “have to try” and find out it is this type of Nouvelle cuisine I sigh a little bit. It seems that these types of restaurants are what receive the accolades, the Michelin stars, the awards. They are the “must haves” in the industry.

Maybe it’s because they push the envelope on flavors and ingredient pairings. And I think that many of these turn into amazing food discoveries. However; while I want to like and often do enjoy my meals at these restaurants I also find that I often leave feeling that the dishes were part of a competition. What I mean by this is that the flavor and ingredient combinations can sometimes be so outside the norm that they feel forced. It’s a competition to see who can come up with the most outrageous meal.  

I want to like the tomato soaked bread with creamed cheese and fruity jam droppings or the shrimp tartar sitting in an orange sauce, topped with caviar and burrata cheese (both recent meals I actually ate) but, they often seem too peculiar to my palate. I suppose maybe it’s not refined enough for such flavor experiments. { end rant} 

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Our fruity amuse bouche

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cornbread with spicy butter

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local burrata

Now that I got that off my chest, I am going to give Modern American cuisine a happy ending today. Park Avenue Summer gave my jaded thoughts a run for their money. I chose the local burrata to start which paired this creamy homemade cheese with peaches, salsa verde, crunchy basil croutons, and zucchini. It was out of this world. The coupling of the ingredients felt natural, as if they were meant to be eaten that way all along! The sweetness of the peaches, hint of heat from the salsa, buttery cheese, and herbaceous crunchy bread just worked. I would go back and order this again and again. My only complaint, the plate was too small.

I ordered Maine lobster with chive gnocchi for dinner. The lobster was cooked nicely but the portion was minuscule. The chive gnocchi was clearly homemade and was tasty if not a little dry. I found the star of the plate to be the lobster sauce. I wanted to dip everything in this creamy, seafood stock. The other sauce that was memorable was the duck sauce that paired with the crispy, salty potato latkes we ordered as a side dish.

The standout of the main course portion was my husband’s short ribs. The hint of Asian influence and the sticky apricots and eggplant that the tender meat sat on were stellar. We simply couldn’t say no to dessert so we went with the waiter’s recommendation for “bases loaded”. What bad things could possibly be said about a dessert that encompasses chocolate, beer, pretzels, peanut butter, and chips? It certainly hit the spot as we finished off a deliciously satisfying meal.

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Maine Lobster
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short ribs
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potato latkes
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bases loaded

Places like Park Avenue Summer are the reason I continue to sigh, but ultimately still go when I see a new Modern American cuisine restaurant I want to try. They prove that food innovation can be fluid, natural, and refreshingly new.

Get to Park Avenue Summer before it changes over to their Fall menu for the tasty dishes I discussed above or wait until the change and see what new tricks they have up their sleeves with the shifting season! 

Take a peak at their website: http://parkavenyc.com/ 

…all for the love of the dish

Missy

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